Prolific Almodovar, reclusive Malick vie at Cannes

May 22, 2011 - 7:13 AM
France Cannes The Skin I Live In Premiere

Actress Elena Anaya, right, kisses director Pedro Almodovar on the cheek as they arrive for the screening of The Skin I Live In, at the 64th international film festival, in Cannes, southern France, Thursday, May 19, 2011. (AP Photo/Joel Ryan)

CANNES, France (AP) — Spanish director Pedro Almodovar has made many films, while American filmmaker Terrence Malick has done just a few. But the esteemed artists have one thing in common: Neither has ever won the highest honor at the world's most-celebrated film showcase.

The Cannes Film Festival hands out prizes Sunday to end its 12-day celebration of cinema. Almodovar's horror shocker "The Skin I Live In," starring Antonio Banderas, and Malick's sweeping portrait of the cosmos "The Tree of Life," with Brad Pitt and Sean Penn, are possible favorites among the 20 films competing for the festival's big prize, the Palme d'Or.

Others with strong awards prospects include Frenchman Michel Hazanavicius' black-and-white silent film "The Artist"; Finnish filmmaker Aki Kaurismaki's heartwarming immigrant story "Le Havre"; British director Lynne Ramsay's tragic family tale "We Need to Talk About Kevin"; and French actress-turned-director Maiwenn's child-protection drama "Polisse."

Belgian brothers Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, two-time winners of the festival's top award for 1999's "Rosetta" and 2005's "The Child," are in the running again with the troubled-youth drama "The Kid with a Bike."

Saturday night, Cannes announced winners in a separate, secondary competition called Un Certain Regard, with South Korean director Kim Ki-Duk's personal reflection "Arirang" and German filmmaker Andreas Dresen's mortality drama "Stopped on Track" sharing the top prize.

Jailed Iranian director Mohammad Rasoulof received the Un Certain Regard directing award for "Goodbye," his tale of a human-rights lawyer who must go to extremes to leave Iran after authorities revoke her license to practice.

Rasoulof is serving a six-year prison sentence in Iran and was banned from filmmaking for 20 years on charges that included making propaganda against the country's Islamic regime.

Almodovar, a Cannes regular who won the festival's directing honor for 1999's "All About My Mother" and the screenplay prize for 2006's "Volver," surprised Cannes crowds this time with a disturbing tale of a mad scientist (Banderas) carrying out terrible revenge.

"The Tree of Life" is only Malick's fifth film in a nearly 40-year career and marks the reclusive director's first time back at Cannes since 1979, when he won the directing award for "Days of Heaven." The festival had hoped to premiere "The Tree of Life" last year, but the film was not ready in time.

The film stars Pitt as a loving but cruelly domineering father in the 1950s, with Penn playing one of his grown sons reflecting back on the people and events that formed him. An impressionistic collage, the film juxtaposes its intimate family drama with grand images of the creation of the universe and the age of dinosaurs.

Past Palme d'Or winner Lars von Trier (2000's "Dancer in the Dark") also is competing again with his end-of-the-world saga "Melancholia." But von Trier is banned from the awards ceremony after he was booted out of the festival for sympathetic remarks about Adolf Hitler at a press conference.

Von Trier later apologized and said he was only joking.

"Melancholia," starring Kirsten Dunst, Charlotte Gainsbourg and Kiefer Sutherland, remains eligible for prizes even though von Trier is not welcome at the awards.